2009 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
By Jim & Tony Nordland

     Defending team champion Iowa has the inside track, as they won the Big Ten Championships in impressive fashion, and hope to claim their second consecutive national championship. A total of 330 wrestlers, including eight NCAA champions, prepare for the 79th annual NCAA Wrestling Championships at the Scottrade Center in St.Louis, Missouri, on March 19th-21st.The Iowa Haweyes are seeking their 22nd NCAA team title and are led by defending NCAA titlist and OSW winner, junior Brent Metcalf (33-0) at 149 pounds. Teams that will challenge the Hawks over the three-day gruelling competition will be Iowa State, EIWA champion Cornell, Nebraska and 2008 team runner-up Ohio State. In the next tier are formidable squads; Illinois, Minnesota, Lehigh, Central Michigan, Boise State, Missouri and Oklahoma.

     Along with the aforementioned Metcalf, other
reigning NCAA champions include junior Angel
Escobedo (22-3) of Indiana at 125, Ohio State
teammates JJaggers (23-7) at 141 and junior Mike
Pucillo (19-1) at 184, and tough Jordan Leen (23-2)
of Cornell at 157 pounds. Former NCAA titlists that
won in 2007, include the tandem from Edinboro, Paul
Donahue ( 31-0) at 125 and
Gregor Gillespie (37-1)
at 157, along with Big Ten champion Jake Herbert
(29-0) of Northwestern at 184 pounds.

     Returning NCAA finalists seeking redemption are Jayson Ness (33-7) of Minnesota at 133, Penn State junior Bubba Jenkins (24-1) at 149, Big ten
winner Mike Poeta (13-0) of Illinois at 157, unbeaten Steve Luke (27-0) of Michigan at 174 and Iowa State junior Jake Varner
(26-2) at 197, along with two-time All-American and
2007 runner-up,
Troy Nickerson (20-0) of Cornell
at 125 pounds.

     Hofstra finished in 15th place last year at the
NCAAs and returns a strong nucleus, including three
CAA champions,
Lou Rugirello (28-3) of Valley
Central at 133, red-shirt freshman
PJ Gillespie (19-
13) of Long Beach at 149, and rugged
(22-7) of East Ramapo at 157,
along with All-American senior
Alton Lucas (24-6) of West Babylon at 174 pounds. Other Pride NCAA qualifiers are true freshman Steve Bonanno (28-13) of Wantagh at 125, Justin Accordino (23-11) of Wiles-Barre (PA), at 141, sophomore Ryan Patrovich (20-8) of Islip at 165, and Joe Fagiano (17-8) of Harwood Height (IL) at 197 pounds.

New York State has 23 qualifiers and will send a stable of solid contenders at the 2009 edition of the NCAA Championships. Many area wrestling experts stated, "This group of New Yorkers at the NCAAs, could be one of the best ever, and we could finish with a few champions and a bunch of medals." Representing New York are the aforementioned Hofstra squad members, along with Nickerson (Chenango Forks) and Gillespie (Webster-Schroeder), and two-time All-American junior JP O'Connor (30-3) of Oxford
Academy, now at Harvard in the 157-
pound class. Other Empire State prepped
grapplers to watch are;
David Marble (27-
10) of Harpursville, now Bucknell at 133,
Corey Jantzen (13-2) of SWR, now
Harvard at 141, and a plethora of matmen
at 149 pounds. They are
Mike Roberts
(31-10) of Colonie, now Boston University,
Kyle Borschoff (26-4) of Pittsford, now
Trevor Chinn (27-7) of
Canandaigua, now Lehigh,
Torsten Gillespie (26-17), Gregor's younger brother, also at Edinboro, Desi Green (38-7) of Rush-Henrietta, now Buffalo and Steve Brown (21-6) of Canton, now Central Michigan. At 165, is Jason Lapham (26-11) of Beekmantown, now Rider, at 174 is Eric Decker (26-17) of BGA, now Old Dominion, and freshman Hunter Meys (29-10) of Shenendehowa, now at Boston University. Two solid prospects will compete at 184, John Barone (36-6) of William Floyd, now at Duke, and CAA champion junior Josh Patterson (41-4) of Wayne, now at Binghamton, along with junior Ed Bordas (26-8) of Valley Central, now at Rider University, who will compete at 285 pounds.
Hofstra's returning All-American, Alton Lucas in action earlier this season. Lucas, a senior is currently 24-6 on the year.
J.P. O'Connor
Troy Nickerson battles Steve Bonnano.
Gregor Gillespie
125 Pounds- Two NCAA champions are here, reigning champ Angel Escobedo (22-3) of Indiana and 2007  winner unbeaten Paul Donahoe (31-0), formerly from Nebraska, now at Edinboro. Donahoe drew the top seed and two-time All American junior Troy Nickerson (2-1) of Cornell, is second seeded. Nickerson is also undefeated and brings a 20-0 mark into the tournament. Escobedo is third-rated and could meet All-American James Nicholson (35-2) of Old Dominion in the quarterfinals. Other returning AAs are Charlie Falck (22-4) of Iowa and Brandon Precin (27-3) of Northwestern, they are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, and headed for a quarterfinal showdown. Also to watch here is Oklahoma's Joey Fio (21-3), Anthony Robles (25-6) of Arizona State and Hofstra true freshman Steve Bonanno (28-13), who could face Nickerson in a second round bout.

133 Pounds- The slight favorite here is junior Franklin Gomez (22-2) of Michigan State, he is top-seeded and hopes to improve on his bronze medal finish, he will be challenged by a quartet of upper bracket challengers. Those foes include Hofstra's Lou Ruggirello (28-
3), who won the Manny Gorrarian Award
(Most Falls) last year, and is determined to
reach the awards podium this year, he could
face returning AA Joe Baker (14-0) of Navy
in the second round. Also in that bracket is 
fourth-seeded Daniel Dennis (27-4) of Iowa
and Andrew Hochstrasser (30-2) of Boise
State. In the balanced botton bracket is
second-seeded Reece Humphrey (26-3) of
Ohio State, along with runner-up Jayson Ness (33-7) of Minnesota and returning AAs, Mike Grey (22-8) of Cornell, Nick Fanthorpe (20-4) of Iowa State and James Kennedy (28-4) of Illinois, who has an opening bout with Bucknell's
David Marble (27-10). A wide-open and talented-laden weight class.

141 Pounds- NCAA champion JJaggers (23-7) of Ohio
State is third rated and will probably face returning AA
Nick Gallick (28-4) of Iowa State in the quarterfinals.
That winner will most likely face second-seeded Zach
Tanelli (25-4) of Wisconsin in the semifinals. Top-rated
sophomore Kellen Russell (26-2) of Michigan is lodged in
the upper tier with Iowa senior Alex Tsirtsis (25-5) and
Corey Jantzen (13-2) of Harvard, who drew
the ninth-seed and will face Joe Caramanica (11-8) of
North Carolina State in an opening round bout.

149 Pounds- The name here is Brent Metcalf (33-0) of Iowa, who has a 64-match win streak and could be headed for his second
consecutive NCAA crown, along with his second
straight OSW Award. Looking to reach the finals
against Metcalf will be second-seeded Bubba Jenkins
(24-1) of Penn State and third-ranked and unbeaten
Darrion Caldwell (33-0) of North Carolina State.
Possible semifinal opponent for Metcalf could be AA
Lance Palmer (27-3) of Ohio State or
Trevor Chinn
(27-7) of Lehigh. A plethora of New York grapplers
are here;
Desi Green (38-7) of Buffalo, Torsten
(26-17) of American who will meet #10-
Kyle Borschoff
(26-4) of American in the first round
PJ Gillespie (19-13) of Hofstra, who will face
David Jauregui (14-4) of West Virginia in an opening bout. In another preliminary match,
Mike Roberts (31-10) of Boston is pitted against #11-Steve Brown (21-6) of Central Michigan.

157 Pounds- This weight class is loaded, as a pair of NCAA champions are here, and are third and fourth seeded. Reigning champion Jordan Leen (23-2) of Cornell is the third seed and 2007 winner Gregor Gillespie (37-1) of Edinboro is fourth-ranked, he could face #5-JP O'Connor (30-3), a two-time AA from Harvard, in a quarterfinal battle. That winner could face unbeaten and top-seeded Jordan Burroughs (33-0) of Nebraska in the semifinals. In the bottom bracket is #2-Mike Poeta (13-0) of Illinois, he could meet Hofstra's Jonny Bonilla-Bowman (22-7) in a tough second round bout. Other prospects are Michael Chandler (27-6) of Missouri, Adam Hall (31-4) of Boise State and returning placer, junior Cyler Sanderson (18-7) of Iowa State. Possible OSW Award here.

165 Pounds- Unbeaten sophomore Matt Lewnes (35-0) of Cornell is top-seeded and will meet Hofstra's Ryan Patrovich (20-8)
in a first round match-up. Patrovich dropped a
close overtime decision to Lewnes in their earlier
season dual. Also in that talented upper bracket
are three returning All-Americans, #4-Moza Fay
(25-4) of Northern Iowa, who could face tough
Nick Marable (23-6) of Missouri, along with #8-
Jon Reader (25-6) of Iowa State. Second-seeded
Big 10 champion Andrew Howe (26-4) of
Wisconsin must get passed formidable foes such
as Chris Brown (27-6) of Old Dominion, AA
Stephen Dwyer (25-5) of Nebraska, along with Iowa's Ryan Morningstar (27-5) who could meet Rider's
Jason Lapham (26-11)in the second round, and sixth-seeded Colt Sponseller (30-6) of Ohio State.

174 Pounds- NCAA finalist Steve Luke (27-0) of Michigan is the top seed and should reach the finals. His top tier obstacles are #4-Jay Borschel (27-3) of Iowa, who could meet Hunter Meys (29-10) of Boston, along with Hofstra's returning AA Alton Lucas (24-6), who will square off against fifth-seeded Raymond Jordan (30-4) of Missouri in the quarterfinals. Unbeaten Mike Cannon (30-0) of American, a returning placer, drew the second seed and should advance to the semifinals. Possible opponents will be sixth-seeded Steve Anceravage (27-4) of Cornell and #3-Brandon Browne (26-3) of Nebraska, who recently won the Big 12 title, he will meet Eric Decker (26-17) of Old Dominion in the opening round.

184 Pounds-The top seed here is 2007 NCAA titlist Jake Herbert (29-0) of Northwestern, his first round foe is John
(36-6) of Duke. Also lodged in that top
bracket are #4-Kirk Smith (36-1) of Boise State,
Vince Jones (31-6) of Nebraska and Lehigh
junior David Craig (25-4).The bottom bracket
has defending champion Mike Pucillo (19-1) of
Ohio State, who drew the third seed, and will
most likely face the winner of the quarterfinal
bout between Louis Caputo (30-5) of Harvard
and #6-
Josh Patterson (41-4) of Binghamton. Also here is second-seeded junior Philip Keddy (29-3) a returning NCAA placer from Iowa and senior Doug Umbehauer (19-4) of Rider.

197 Pounds- Big 12 champion and returning AA Craig Brester (29-3) of Nebraska is top-rated and should reach the finals. Hofstra's Joe Fagiano (17-8) will meet Brester in an opening round bout. Also in the top bracket is #4-Tyrel Todd (21-1), a bronze medalist from Michigan. Perched in the bottom bracket is two-time runner-up, junior Jake Varner (26-2) of Iowa State, the second seed, he should reach the gold medal match for the third consecutive year. Possible opponents along the way for Varner could be, returning AA Hudson Taylor (31-7) of Maryland, Max Askren (26-5) of Missouri and third-seeded Brent Chiswell (13-1) of Boise State. Look for a Brester vs Varner final.

285 Pounds- All three returning NCAA place-winners are lodged in the top tier and the slight favorite in this wide-open weight class is #1-David Zabriskie (30-2) of Iowa State. His path to the final could include AA Kyle Massey (23-8) of Wisconsin, #5-Konrad Dudziak (27-2) of Duke and the other AA, fourth-seeded Jared Rosholt (30-4) of Oklahoma State. In the bottom bracket is #2-Mark Ellis (26-3) of Missouri, Iowa's Daniel Erekson (22-6) and third-seeded Jermail Porter (28-1) of Kent State,who will meet junior Eddie Bordas (26-8) of Rider in a preliminary bout.

   The last time a team from the East coast won the NCAA Championships was in 1953, when Penn State edged Oklahoma, 21 to 15 (a different scoring system), under the tutelage of legendary coach Charlie Spiedel, as a total of 15,000 fans witnessed the action, at Penn State University. Look for the Big Red of Cornell, with veteran coach Rob Koll, now at the helm for 15 years, to make a serious run for the NCAA team title at the 2009 meet. Potential champion Troy Nickerson now boasts a career mark of 75-5. Two fan favorites at the NCAAs will be sophomore Anthony Robles (125) of Arizona State and senior Brandon Browne (174) of Nebraska. Robles, who was born with one leg, was one match away from earning All-American honors last year, and Browne's mom, Thayes Browne, passed away in February, he has dedicated the remainder of the season to her, and will pay tribute to his mother at the NCAAs-with her name on tape, that he will wrap around his finger. Pennsyvania leads the nation with NCAA qualifiers, as the Keystone State has 49 grapplers in the tournament. Of the Empire State's 23 representatives, 16 won NYS Championships...

Josh Patterson
Matt Lewnes battles Ryan Patrovich
Brent Metcalf
Corey Jantzen
Lou Ruggirello